Given below is the historic significance and the outcome of this act.
► But a lot of events eventually culminated in the participation of the U.S. in the World War I, for instance, the luxury liner Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat killing 128 Americans, according to the interpretation of the Zimmerman letter, Germany was coaxing Mexico to go against America, and there was danger that Great Britain would eventually collapse under German pressure.
► President Woodrow Wilson was successfully re-elected for the second term, and he decided that due to the ongoing catastrophic events, the U.S. would join forces in World War I. This led to mass war criticism making it difficult for the government to recruit soldiers for the war. Another growing concern for the government was major opposition by the Industrial Workers of the World ( IWW a.k.a The Wobblies) who were sympathetic towards the Global Labor Movement, and felt that the U.S. was wrongly opposing nations with large labor movements.
► In order to curb all the existing threats from the opposition groups and to safeguard national security, Congress passed the federal law called the Espionage Act on June 15, 1917. There were already a lot of laws pertaining to espionage and sedition, but this act was based mainly on the Defense Secrets Act of 1911. By this act, the severity of the punishment towards a person caught committing treason or engaging in acts of espionage was unthinkable, leading even to a possible death penalty.
► The Espionage Act meted out a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment for anyone convicted of interfering with military recruitment, sharing government defense secrets, or threatening national security. The law also levied fines of up to $10,000 for those convicted, and also gave additional powers to the Postmaster General to confiscate any mail that might be deemed seditious or treasonable. This law also extended over an individual who indirectly participated in group conspiracies that threatened national interest, and also over those who failed to report such crimes.
► In the earlier drafted version of the bill, President Wilson had included censorship of the press, but this did not get enough support from the Senate; hence, it was later excluded. The act further strengthened when it received legislation amendment in the Sedition Act of 1918.
► Around 450 were imprisoned as they opposed the participation of the U.S. in World War I. In 1918, a socialist journal known as 'The Masses' was forced to stop publication as it was accused of causing widespread disparities against the government through its articles and cartoons.
► Under this act, around 245 people were deported to Russia by the then Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, and his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, accusing them of treason and supporting left-wing politics.
► This continued during the Red Scare of 1919-1920 and around 1,500 people were arrested under this act for disloyalty towards the government.
This Act caused a lot of mayhem in the political system during the World War I, but after the war ended, prosecutions under this act ceased. During World War II, criminal prosecutions under this act were mostly limited to outright antagonist acts of treason. At present, the law is referred to only under extreme circumstances.